Ask interior designers what the most important element in a room is and many will say that — after wall color — it’s the sofa.

So how do you choose this crucial piece of furniture? Should you go for one big sofa or two love seats? What about materials, arm styles and the all-important question of how to position the sofa in the space?

Start by thinking about the shape of the room, says Elaine Griffin , who helms design offices in Manhattan and St. Simon’s Island, Georgia.

“In a long, narrow room, place the sofa along the shorter wall farther from the door,” she advises. “This seems counterintuitive, but sitting it at the far end of the room on the shorter wall allows for way more furniture to go in front of it.”

If your space is small, she suggests a 72-inch, apartment-size sofa with narrower arms. Pair it with slipper chairs, narrow armchairs or nice dining chairs.

Show off the proportions of a square room by floating the sofa and other furniture away from walls, Griffin says. She suggests dividing a room into “zones” when you’re uncertain about furniture placement, especially in an open plan.

Imagine drawing an X from corner to corner in the room, and then a cross from the walls’ midpoints horizontally and vertically. “Your sofa or sofas will sit either on or parallel to one of those lines,” she says.

Need to seat a large number of people comfortably?

“Sectionals deliver like nobody’s business,” she notes. In small spaces, they can seat enough people to avoid the need for extra chairs. In large spaces, they can fill space without looking awkward. And in awkward spaces, you can install a sectional with an interesting shape, like one with a curvy back.

Christie Leu , a designer in Chevy Chase, Maryland, also approves of sectionals.

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